There are 10 provinces and 3 territories in Canada and I felt after a recent visit to Cayo Santa Maria that Cuba could be at least be an honorary destination in recognition of the fact that Canadians love the country so much! At least 99% of tourists were Canadian in Cayo Santa Maria. One couple we met has just completed their 43rd trip to the same resort going monthly. When you switch on the television you get CTV Ottawa! That said, we have just returned from a first-time visit and enjoyed a beautiful week there. I had been told that the Cubans really appreciate any items left behind so when packing I made sure to take things that I would give and leave for them to use. Some said just tip them but this is a country where everything is very expensive and nowhere near the choices we have, we heard many stories, one woman told me she had to pay 14 pesos for a plastic laundry basket and it cost her two weeks’ pay! It does not matter that things have been used although if you are giving something away make sure it is something you would be prepared to accept yourself. Any sort of tote bag is popular as the Cubans work very hard and long hours often traveling long distances to get to work. A day after I arrived my beach bag was admired and I said if she wanted it I was leaving it behind, she did. I also gave out jewelry, bags, fragrance, and clothes. I was fortunate that I had a checked bag as well as a carry-on so I was able to take quite a lot. I was thrilled that my downsizing proved popular, even more than the tips. So if you are traveling to Cuba or perhaps a country that is underprivileged, declutter or if you prefer, purchase some items. Don’t worry if it does not fit as items are traded and passed on. The most popular items that Cubans want are babies and children’s clothes, fragrance and toothpaste.
I had seen the bus station on my left when exiting the train station the day before so I walked down after checking out of the Parador after breakfast. Again it was a lovely day and I took a slight different route to get there. I could have picked the bus up at one of the stops nearer the river but my language skills are laughable so played it safe. I only realized once I was on the bus. When I arrived in Caldas de Reis I had to take a taxi to our hotel, Torre do rio.
The taxi driver said it was muy beuno, a very good hotel and it was absulutely stunning. All the rooms have names, not numbers and this large country house has a river that runs through the grounds and feeds the amazing pool that boasts its own waterfall. while it was hot, the water was ice cold and I just put my feet in. Originally an 18th century textile mill, now renovated as a country house hotel on Umia River. Breakfast and dinner were excellent as were the rooms with upscale toiletries, bathrobes and slippers. The landscaping was gorgeous, a perfect place to stay. Take a look at these pictures.
I left early taking a taxi to Redondela station and catching a train to Pontevedra as I knew there would be more to do in a good size city and I was not dissapointed. There was a tourist office in the station and armed with a map and directions I set off for the Parador. I took a wrong turn and then another and got completly lost which was really the best thing as this is really a lovely city. Lots to do here whatever your taste. Pontevedra is a very walkable and interesting city with lots of pedestrianisation and car free center. Surrounded by hills, the city is located on the edge of an estuary at the mouth of the river Lérez by the sea, at the bottom of the Ría de Pontevedra, in the heart of the Rías Baixas.
The Parador, is a palace that was once the residence of the counts of Maceda, now a hotel located in the old quarter of the historic city of Pontevedra. It was quite wonderful with its stately carved stone staircase leading to comfortable and large guest rooms. The garden is absolutely stunning.
Walking through the well-preserved old quarter of Pontevedra, most of which has been pedestrianized. Lots of stunning buildings, museums, shops, cafe and restaurants. Visit Santa María la Mayor Basilica, and La Virgen Peregrina Church, a chapel with a scallop-shaped floor plan and beautiful night lighting.
Here we met up with some other walkers, the Aussies and the Brits in the Parodor bar and a lively evening was has by all.
For this leg I needed to take a train from Vigo-Urzáiz, which is one of two railway terminus in Vigo. I was fortunate to be within walking distance to the station which connects with Galician cities such as Pontevedra, Vilagarcí a de Arousa, Santiago de Compostela and A Coruña every hour. My next stop was to be Redondela and as this hotel was in a rural setting and with no bus access I had to take a taxi from the station. Note there is Redondela & Redondela-Picota. They are close together but Redondela was the nearest one for me. I took a taxi, found easily outside the station to Casa Rural as Chivas located in O-Viso, 6km from Redondela, we both found this location awkward as it was extra walking or transport. Casa Rural as Chivas is a hotel that has a restaurant and large garden.
I am a city girl and lunch or dinner in the countryside is lovely but there was little to do here except walk so reading my book in a shady part of the garden until the walkers arrived was how I spent the day and I am glad it was just the one. Looking forward to Pontevedra
I spent the morning in Baiona after a wonderful breakfast with John in the Parador. I took the bus from the waterfront all the way to Vigo getting off at the Av. Florida 16. The ride today was longer, an hour and twenty minutes. Having a map which I had picked up from the Baiona Tourist office I found my destination and navigated towards Casco Vello, or “Old Town,” near the port, sighteeing on the way.
The Hotel America is a modern hotel in the historic quarter of Vigo which is a city of approximately 300.000. To get there I walked through Príncipe and Urzaiz Streets, the shopping & commercial area. It became quieter as I neared the hotel and once checked in by the very friendly & helpful staff, I set off to explore.
This Pastelería was amazing! Cakes made to look like Chanel and Gucci accessories were so beautifully made, they were utterly delightful. I strolled down to the old port and saw that you could take a ferry to the Cíes Islands, which are part of the Atlantic Islands National Park. The Cíes are known for their rich birdlife and crescent-shaped Rodas Beaches. Alas we did not have the time to visit this time. I walked around the beautiful large squares and the narrow hilly streets enjoying my time in Vigo, I would definately go back. John arrived later as it was a longer walking day and we had drinks and dinner on the roof top bar. After dinner I showed him the Casco Vello.
I caught the first bus out leaving at 7.30am forgoing breakfast otherwise; I would have to wait until 3pm for the next bus. I was tired, having not slept well and I decided if I could not get an early check-in, Baiona was a larger city and there was more to do.
The Paradors Conde de Gondomar is situated on the Monterreal peninsula overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, It is an actual medieval fortress with battlements and lovely walks within its walls. Truly, an elegant hotel, I fell in love with this hotel. We had a large room with a sea view. I was able to check in early and as I had missed, breakfast took it here. I relaxed before going to take a long nap drifting off to the sounds of the waves. Up later, I met John in reception and he too was as surprised as I was with the location of this hotel.
There is a lot to do in Baiona, which has a lively atmosphere due to the many restaurants, bars, and nightclubs. You can enjoy a drink at the terrace cafés by the sea as well as many popular nightspots. We went out for drinks and then found a restaurant in the old part of town. The second day was the rest day for the walkers and we just enjoyed walking around after breakfast in town as well as the hotel grounds.
Baiona is famous as Villa de la Arribada (Port of Entry), as it was the first place in Europe to learn of the discovery of America, 3 days before Columbus’s La Nina sailed into Lisbon Portugal. There is a replica of the La Pinta ship in the harbour, that we visited.
Just one very early morning bus or the one I took at 2.30pm. This bus route runs along the western slope of the Serra da Groba , which does have fantastic views and a section is called the Magic Route of Oia. As usual, I showed the bus driver the address of today’s destination – the Hotel Restaurante Costa Verde in Oia (on the map looks nearer to Viladesousa) but discovered it really does not matter as it is just one road so it is hard to get lost. As luck would have it, there is a bus stop right outside the hotel. As I had left later than usual the guys arrived shortly after so we all sat down together for afternoon coffee. Dinner was in the hotel restaurant and again was good. The hotel itself was pretty dated, and even with a sea view, I could not wait to leave and John reminded me that our next stop was two nights at the Parador in Baiona. Yes!
Today was a little different; I had to take the train to Caminha, which takes just 10 minutes. You buy your ticket on the train, as there is no ticket office in Vila Praia de Âncora. As I waited I noted there was much fussing about what to do from the other travellers when the train did not arrive at the scheduled time. One traveller, Eduardo spoke English and said that this sometimes happened and as there was no one to ask, you just did not know. My only choice would have been to take a taxi, but after 15 minutes, the train rolled in. We exited in Caminha and Eduardo very kindly walked me to the ferry terminal; I think he wanted to practice his English as he is planning to study in London UK in the fall. At the ferry terminal, there is a bar where you can wait if you are early. We were to meet at around 11am to take the 11.30am ferry. We agreed if either one of us was delayed we would meet at the hotel.
Shortly after John and JB arrived, we bought our tickets and boarded the ferry which also takes vehicles and just 10 minutes to cross the Río Miño, almost as it meets the Atlantic from Caminha Portugal to Camposancos Spain, 2km south of A Guarda. Spain is one hour ahead of Portugal. Once we arrived the guys put me into a taxi to the Vila Da Guarda Hotel as there were no buses to A Guarda town and they took off walking. No English is spoken at the hotel but using google translator on the hotel computer we did just fine. The Vila Da Guarda is a very modern hotel and we had a lovely room.
A Guarda is a very pretty seaside town and fishing port with restaurants and bars overlooking a typical harbour setting, which is the oldest part of town near Praza do Reló.
With the Atlantic behind you can look up to Monte de Santa Trega, rising up just outside of the town. We were on half board but we were taken down to Puerto Guardes, a harbourside restaurant where all the locals where eating and drinking, we had a fine meal of swordfish with local wine.
After dinner, we took the walking path that hugs the coastline and watched an incredible sunset. We walked back to the hotel getting a little lost on the way. The shopping district is quite large and although a lot was under construction, it will be very nice when it is finished.
I choose the 2.30 train with RE – Comboios De Portugal to take me from Viana do Castelo to Vila Praia de Âncora so I was able to spend the first part of the day in Viana (and this was almost as good as another day). I knew that Vila Praia de Âncora was just a small town and I would be able to see the main spots in an afternoon. After breakfast and checking out of the Viana Axis I turned left and walked 15 minutes to the train station. I confirmed the times and purchased my ticket before wandering around Viana, again it was a really hot day.
The 2.30 pm train was an express taking only 17 minutes and upon arriving I left the station turning left for the Hotel Meira which was just a minute away. This was to be our last night in Portugal. Day 7, we would be in Spain.
Vila Praia de Âncora is another very pretty seaside sojourn on the Costa Verdi. Located at the end of the Âncora River, Vila Praia de Âncora means “Beach City of the Anchor”. After checking in the usual routine followed, a walk down to the beach and river with a stroll around town was another pleasant way to spend the afternoon followed by coffee and some reading. We had dinner at the hotel that night as we were on half board.